GEORGE NEWS - Coping with life itself during these trying times is difficult enough, yet front line workers and those who test positive for Covid-19 live in fear of the stigma and discrimination in their communities.
A resident from Parkdene who was in self-isolation at home for two weeks, says she was scared at times and found it extremely difficult and lonely. She isolated with her son and husband.
"We could not go anywhere and stayed indoors most of the time," she said. "Just stepping out of the house for some fresh air became difficult as people would stare and point fingers at us. Some even said we should leave the community. I felt like a prisoner in my own home.
"A teacher at my son's school brought us food parcels and for that I'm so thankful as we could not go out to get any food. A sister at our local clinic also followed up on us with daily calls to hear how we are doing," she told George Herald.
A local nurse who spoke to the paper said she experienced discrimination against her profession.
She was refused entrance to a car dealership when she, dressed in her uniform, took her vehicle in for maintenance one morning before work. She was screened at the gate and asked several questions which she answered.
"I had no symptoms. One of the questions was if I had been in contact with someone who is Covid-19 positive to which I replied, 'I work at a hospital where positive cases (patients) are treated'. I was then informed that I can't enter the building. Someone came and took my car and booked it in. I told them that I did not say that I am positive, I just work at a hospital where cases are treated and felt that they discriminated, not against me as a person, but against my profession. The employee just told me they are following the rules and that I can't enter the building. It was an emotional encounter to say the least."
She said people need to realise that the virus can be anywhere.
"You don't know if the person standing next to you in any shop is positive, the virus is everywhere, not just in hospitals where the sick is being treated. And in hospitals it's in a controlled environment where nurses wear their PPEs and follow protocol."
Spokesperson for the Department of Health, Nadia Ferreira, earlier talked about the health risk due to social stigmatisation.
"When someone who tested positive for Covid-19 feels scared or threatened by their community or neighbourhood, they might hide their illness to avoid discrimination,' she said.
"This can result in them not seeking healthcare, which can lead to their condition deteriorating and eventually spreading the virus to others. Remember, it is a difficult time for the infected or affected people and they need compassion, love, and support."
Ferreira said people should offer help instead of stigmatising or discriminating.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter last week that the stigmatisation of people who have contracted Covid-19 is a challenge that society has a collective responsibility to stamp out.
"Just as we came together to promote acceptance of people living with HIV and stood firm against victimisation, we must show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those who are infected with this virus and for their families."
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